Our Blessings

Our Blessings

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Balance

Balance seems to be the ever-changing goal I'm striving for in our home and family. The holidays were a challenge, and not just from the bout with the flu. We have 3 little girls who have had memories since they were babies or toddlers of our Christmas traditions with us and we cherish them and look forward to them each year. Yet, Christmas was extremely difficult for Angie. Christmas was hard and so was her birthday and pretty much every holiday, outing or event. Even just having company over for dinner or going to the grocery store is filled with difficult moments. Reading out loud, working on school, silence, clutter, a messy floor after a meal, anytime I leave to go anywhere and the list of triggers goes on and on and on.

There can be so many triggers for a child with trauma in their history. It can be positive or painful memories associated with holidays, or seasons or food or even different scents, textures or sounds. We can all relate to that a bit - when I smell horses feelings surface and I am instantly taken back to my childhood filled with a season of positive memories of when I practically lived on my horse. However, the smell of beer instantly makes me nauseated. Not such good memories attached to that. With our kids from hard places - these triggers can stir fear, abandonment, loneliness, loss, anger, hurt, hopelessness or any number of other feelings. When I smell beer - negative memories or feelings or both arise - but without even thinking much about it anymore my mind goes on to remember times beyond that when life was better or the relationship changed. I am at a place where I know that those were unsafe or difficult times - but I am perfectly safe and cared for now and I don't have to choose to think that through - it just happens all within that first few seconds after I inhale the scent.

However, when my girl is triggered her brain causes her to feel smack in the middle of the trauma again. She is literally unable to understand that she is safe and loved in those moments. We have been working through this for about 8 months now. To know what she endured is beyond what my brain and heart can comprehend. We continue with therapy, neurofeedback, essential oils, meds, deep breathing, having packs of gum and stress balls nearby, reading scripture with her, praying with her and listening. Oh the listening. It can go on for hours upon hours - week after week (sometimes day after day) month after month. She shares the trauma, she talks about what she endured and she talks about life now and the battles she has every day. We cry together at the hard parts and rejoice together at the victories - even when they often seem small and a long-time coming. She defaults to old habits and negative self-coping mechanisms. I point her back to Jesus over and over and over again. And as much as possible encourage healthy coping skills. We continually have to remind her and encourage her and sometimes help her to listen to the truth Jesus has spoken about who she is in Christ to refute the lies she believes and remembers and continues to hear. We pray over her, with her and encourage her to grab her bible and pray on her own as well. She journals a ton. This helps some when she can't spend time talking to me at the moment.

One day during one of our talks she was lamenting how it never seems to change and she feels so weak. I prayed with all my heart and looked out the window and my eyes landed on a baby tree that Trevor and Vivi planted last summer. I feel like the Lord led me to that example. We talked about how she is like a baby tree in our family. Trees do not instantly become big and strong over night. So when she (and occasionally I) become frustrated or battle hopelessness about the slow progress or even when there seems to be no progress at all - we know that through these times the Lord is at work. It takes years for a tree to grow big and tall. And all the while the roots are growing deeper. That is how that tree withstands the storms. I remind her that just as our baby tree out in the yard has 3 straps holding it securely until it is big and strong enough to stand alone - so does she. She has Mom, Dad and Jesus holding onto her. When we can't see progress - we strive to keep our eyes upon Jesus and know that He is at work - growing her roots deeper day by day.

We do have wonderful conversations at times that are filled with hope as we talk about the plans Jesus might have for her and remember the moments she looks to Him and He is so faithful to carry her through. But very often they are exhausting, emotional and filled with the horror stories that made up her life. We revisit the same topics again and again - sometimes with new details. At times I've let my mind wander to what life would be like if she were our only child at home. We might be making much better progress. She is so attuned to my moods, body language and facial expressions. My tone of voice, the words I use. Everything I do around her is noted and her moods are based off of me. It is beyond exhausting. I explain that she has to learn to trust that even when I am distracted or tired or perhaps having a bad day - she has to remind herself that I still love her and she is still safe.  I know that she will have to learn to rely only on Jesus to save her and help her - and I also know that I can not be everything she needs every minute day and night. Yet, I long to do all I can to help her.  Connecting, praising, comforting, hugging, listening, empathizing and protecting. And though it seems focusing only upon her would be best...it is not where God has me right now. We have 3 other little girls who are all quite needy. ~ Balance ~ In fact when I try to take time every day or two to verbally check in with Angie to see how she's doing - which means at least 20-30 minutes and easily a couple of hours - the others begin to fall apart while I'm out of the room. Sibling rivalry ramps up between the youngest two. And Loe's anxiety and insecurity skyrockets - pretty much every single time. The ripple effect of the trauma is immense. Our two oldest girls are in therapy. We've incorporated play therapy, neurofeedback and EMDR into the sessions. Trevor and I alternate taking them each week so we're both involved in this healing process and it also allows us to have some one on one time with them in the car and we always stop for a treat on the way there or home. Anyone with more than one child knows how precious one on one time is.

Has this road been easy? No? In fact I recently read over a check list of Secondary PTSD symptoms - I have been experiencing most of those the past few months. Because I'm the one the girls usually focus on, gage moods off of, vent to and seek out - it is a lot. Due to a various reasons - we monitor our kiddos closely. Much of our daily routine is altered to assure everyone is safe and healthy. Vivi is still young enough to be a Mama's girl and I'm sure the anxiety around here this past year has caused her to be a bit clingier than she might have been otherwise. She's still sleeping in our room and most nights ends up in our bed. And other than the fact that she literally clings to me in her sleep as well as her knee in my back and occasional slap as she rolls over - the secure attachment we are developing has been so worth it. Truly! And I am still soaking up every bit of her baby/toddlerhood that I can. (Yes - I realize she's over 3 and not so much a toddler anymore - but I'm in denial!) She's always been a challenge and continues to be with her very strong, sometimes wild and defiant personality. But, the joy and laughter and snuggles - oh - what a treasure! And I think the strong attachment we have developed has been so good for her as we've been walking this season with so much more anxiety present in our home. I wouldn't trade a second of all the baby wearing, co-sleeping, rocking moments for anything. Miss Ren's personality sometimes allows her to float above the tension that can be in the air at times. Who knew her funny - occasionally spacey personality trait would end up being a gift! But, she does often ask when she'll get to go to counseling so she can have such regular dates, too! ~ Balance ~ We do purpose to take both little girls out for little outings and treats.

Miss Eloise has anxiety that has been present since before she came home to us. Those that assume that a child who was adopted as a toddler or infant need to realize that trauma and loss are a part of their lives, too. It may be buried deep within their minds and hearts. But, you will likely see it in one way or another. Night terrors, trust issues, hyper vigilance, heightened separation anxiety - or even the opposite - they go to anyone and don't see you as different from any other adult. We had girls on both ends of the spectrum. We don't go looking under every new mood for adoption issues to be lurking. However, we do take it into consideration, pray for discernment and parent accordingly. We also have given our girls the freedom to express any question, concern, sadness or frustration they might have regarding their adoption. We know that welcoming them into our family does not erase their time before they came to us or the loss they experienced that brought them to a place of needing a new family. Until this past year we had a few times of questions bubbling to the surface - often surrounding a sibling's adoption process. Otherwise, we work to keep an open dialogue so we and they are comfortable talking it over as it comes up in the future. And we pray for them...A LOT. We know they might go through much before they have peace in their life about their adoption - or they might seem to glide through and not be bothered with unanswered questions. Just as each child is unique - so will be the way they process their story. Either way we will continue to love, listen and pray for them to find their identity in Jesus and know their true joy and healing will come from Him.

There is so much more I could talk about regarding our parenting style and how that has brought about miracles. But, that's another post for another time.

We appreciate prayer as we walk this road with our girls. We long to have continual compassion, gentleness and patience. We want to help our girls become whole and deeply rooted in Christ. We long for a strong marriage and balance in our lives with Jesus at the center of it all. So thankful to all of you faithful prayer warriors and those who are there for us during this season. You are a priceless gift to us!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

She's officially OURS!


Our first court validation appointment was scheduled for National Adoption Day - which apparently is very fun day at court - they have balloons and face painting and it's a big ol' party with families scheduled back to back throughout the day. That date happened to be the same date as the girls' dance rehearsal and performance. So...we rescheduled. 


There wasn't a party waiting for us - so we brought our own. 


They got to sit in the Jury Box. The judge did turn and ask them if any of them thought there was any reason that Angie shouldn't be a part of our family. Thankful for the love, support and prayers from these people (and others that couldn't be there). Oh...and they all voted that Angie should be ours! Whew! ;)


Judge Howard is such a great guy! He validated Loe & Ren's adoption as well. He's an adoptive father and I think this is the fun part of his job. He asks good questions and is genuinely interested in each family and child. But, also makes sure everyone is comfortable and having fun. (Note the balloons in the background.) He wanted to know who each person was and talked to each of our kids. 


After we finished he invited Angie up to sit in his chair. She loved that! 



Vivi had to get in on that action. She liked the gavel maybe a little too much! :)



She was nervous before we entered the courtroom. But, by the end she was having fun! And a purple balloon didn't hurt. 


Love my family. The way they welcome in our kiddos - by birth or adoption. (We were sad that Chase couldn't make it.)


And here is the rest of our crew...a portion of the amazing family in Christ that makes up our incredible support system. So thankful for each one of them!


No words needed here...melt. 


Because Angie's birthday was just a couple of days away - we decided it would work well to have a little celebration following the court appointment. It was an unusually mild December day - in the 60's. So we walked over to Walrus for some ice cream. The girls are walking with Auntie Betsy - she was the sweet gal who took care of these 3 when we were in Colombia. She loves our girls and the feeling is mutual!



Angie with a few sisters and a few friends. We couldn't ask for better friends - these sweet girls and a few others. They love Jesus and have become so dear to our girl. Major answer to prayer!


LOVE these ladies! Betsy supported us as we prepared to travel and during our time away. Leaving my 3 little girls and being apart for 2 weeks - was SO very difficult. Betsy endured my novel-length emails as we prepared to leave. She loved and spoiled them while we were gone. We will be forever grateful for her blessing us during that season. Kelly has been the angel to give us occasional MUCH needed dates away. (With our crew - it's truly respite - with the various issues, behaviors and challenges - we don't leave often and we can't just leave them with anyone. They need to feel safe and secure and we need to know that the person caring for them is aware of the needs and has a ton of patience and compassion as well as wisdom about our unique situation. That's Kelly - in a nutshell.) And then there is Jeni. She is such a dear friend. We all call her our honorary adoptive mom. She's listened to hour upon hour of adoption stories and issues. She knows the terminology and names of the experts - she could probably hand out advice with the best of them! But, more importantly she (and a few other precious friends) are there to be on their knees with us as we walk through the tough stuff. She is there to laugh and cry and drink caffeine together. And it's fun that Loe is sitting here with them - she is such a gem. The way she has poured out her heart and energy for her big sis is incredible. Love her heart!


After we all enjoyed a scoop of ice cream - we sang to Angie. It was an emotional day for our girl - as are most days. Having a quick, casual ice cream "party" was perfect. On her birthday we had a quiet family dinner. Well...as quiet as our family gets with these kiddos. We're looking forward to planning a special party for her sweet 16th birthday next year if she's up for it. 


Viv hitched a ride back to the car. She loves Auntie Kelly SOOOO much! 


Grandma hugs are the best!

What a blessing to celebrate Angie's adoption and be on this side of it all. She's been home for over 8 months now. The challenges continue to be great. This gives us opportunities every day to speak truth, allow Jesus to shine His light into the dark places. We cling to Him for strength and wisdom. So thankful for His grace and mercies. Angie is an amazing, precious daughter and we love her dearly.  What a sweet privilege it is to be her forever family!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Night Before Advent



We've always loved December. It's filled with beauty, traditions, family, delicious flavors and aromas. We have 23 years (and many more before marriage) of memories. Yet, holidays can be challenging for many adopted kids with histories of trauma. We have some daughters who can use a month filled with Hope! Fresh reminders each day of Jesus - our Healer, Redeemer, Savior...our Hope.  celebrating advent...preparing to embrace the amazing reality of the Gift given to a lost and dying world. In Him we have life...eternal. In Him we have peace and joy and everything we need. Ann Voskamp's blog has been a source of encouragement to me for years. The focus on who Christ is and how much He has one for us. It changes our focus and our heart...and our lives.So, I was thrilled to see this new book about Advent along with ornaments to buy or print and color. Even printouts for a "Night Before Advent Hot Chocolate Party"! I'm not a very crafty mom - so this made it easy to have a special night for my girls and prepare for Advent.






While the girls were downstairs playing I prepared our little party. We had hot chocolate with whipped cream AND sprinkles! Cookies and popcorn. When they caught on that I was up to something - they could hardly stand the suspense - knocking and asking if they could come up every few minutes. 




We read Ann's poem, The Night Before Advent. It perfectly captured my heart's desire for this December. 


While I read the girls sipped their hot chocolate and enjoyed their treats. 


Our little Jesse Tree is all ready to be adorned with our advent ornaments. 


They opened up the beautiful new book and ornaments.  



My three year old has already paged through the book several times so it's looking well-loved already. :)


They also opened up a box with new pajamas for each one. 


They have been asking for footy pjs! I envisioned cozy, wintry or Christmas-themed pajamas. But, these are what I found and they love them! They are a bunch of adorable, wild things - so it's appropriate! ;)



We all enjoyed our sweet, meaningful evening. A new family tradition - celebrating the countdown to the day we remember Jesus coming to save us. Oh, how we need saving!


       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~Update~

We are only two nights into Advent and are already looking forward to the reading and discussion each night. I printed out an ornament for each one to color each night. They sit fairly quietly, coloring as they listen. Amazing. :)



The first night was incredibly timely. I had spent time talking and crying with one of my girls just moments before we sat down for our Advent reading. This happens frequently as we work slowly through her history and all of the trauma she endured before she came to us. Anytime we take our eyes off of Jesus - all of this just becomes too much. Too dark. Too hopeless. So, this reminder was just exactly what we needed. I had to pause several times while reading through tears. 


Jesus is just so very, very faithful to us as we parent. An to our kids who were grafted into our family tree. 


Praying that instead of fear, worry, hopelessness and pain - this month will be flooded with sweet, an powerful new memories. Reminders of the miracle of the Hope we have in the One who came to earth as a tiny baby and grew up to draw the little ones close. To love the least of these. To go after the lost sheep. To walk with those He loved. To heal and make whole those who followed Him.

What a perfect example of how we can meet the needs of our children. Thankful that as I abide in Him - He abides in me - allowing me to love others the way He loves me.


(I shot some of these pics on my camera and after loading them onto my computer - my computer stopped working! So, I pulled them out of the cloud onto my phone to "edit" them! I filled in the gaps with a few pics taken on my old iPad, which is where I'm doing this post. Gotta love technology!) 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

So Thankful


We are so thankful for God's faithfulness in our lives. He supplies us with strength when we are weary, wisdom when we are unsure which way to turn and...


joy when hopelessness begins knocking. We are thankful for laughter - can't imagine life without it!  As we continue to work through a lot of trauma and grieving, going to various types of therapy and doctor's appointments and finding ways to keep everyone healthy, safe and secure, work on attachments and connecting and live the rest of our life with 4 of our 6 kids at home...we still have to weigh out each outing and event. Though for the most part the girls really enjoy being with friends and family - too much can be overstimulating for some and stir up all kinds of stuff.  So, because of this and a few other things we knew would be coming up - we decided keeping Thanksgiving low-key at home was the best plan. The girls were thrilled that Grandma and Grandpa came to join us! 


There was hide-n-seek, lots of visiting and of course some tickling and playing. It was a precious and much needed time with my folks and my kiddos. 


ALL six of my kiddos! 


Spending the day with these two handsome guys makes my heart so, so full! I am so proud to be their mama and so thankful for the friendship we have now that they are adults. It's so amazing to pray for them and see the gifts God has placed within them develop and turn into jobs and careers. They are both earning a living doing what they are passionate about - love that!


It was strange to think that as far as we can remember this was our first Thanksgiving at home. We've always spent it somewhere with family. Our extended family relationships have shifted. Everyone is busy in a different season of life. The meal could intimidate some...but that's where having my own personal (and incredibly good-looking!) chef comes in handy. 


I got to visiting and helping and didn't get very many good food pics. We had the usual ham, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, Trev's famous sweet potatoes, some really yummy parmesan-cracked peppercorn bread and white rolls from Great Harvest (a rare, but worthwhile splurge I picked up when I was there last week!). And instead of baking a whole turkey for our smaller group - Trev roasted turkey breasts - not just plain old turkey. But, some kind of herb-infused, fried prosciutto covered goodness. I usually either pass on turkey or take a tiny piece just cause it's Thanksgiving and all. But, this time I so enjoyed the delicious turkey that I have only eaten that for leftovers! 






My folks brought some yummy chips and dips, a chocolate pie and an ice cream cake. (Which made a few girls VERY happy!) I made my usual pumpkin pie with cream cheese which makes it taste SO silky and yummy - it's a good thing I only make these once a year! And of course homemade whipped cream - because once I did that years and years ago - we couldn't go back to cool whip. 


It was great to spend time catching up with Chase after dinner before he drove back to Denver. And Hunter hung out until after we got the girls in bed and watched a movie with us - just like old times. 


Though I love things about every season - fall is my favorite. This. This is why! 
Takes my breath away! 


Thanksgiving is that last bit of fall before the glorious Christmas season begins. Loe and I popped into Hobby Lobby the other day and all of their fall decor was 80% off...SCORE!


So we picked up this big, fun lantern that I'm hopeful I can take apart and refill with other things through out the year. We keep decorations pretty simple in every season. So, my favorite types of things are items that we can change for each season. Like simple baskets. 


And these candle holders that live on our island filled with various things throughout the year. 


This big ol' wreath for our big ol' door was fun since it was SO cheap. I just can't see spending a ton of money on a wreath - or making my own. But, I love them and was happy to find one on clearance!


 When the girls had an evening with Auntie Kelly and their friend Karen recently - they painted these pretty jars and put candles inside. They are gracing our mantel. 


It was a day to be thankful for. And we are so blessed as we look back at the Lord's faithfulness to us this past year. It has NOT been an easy year. And yet I wouldn't trade the depth of love and relationship I've experienced with Jesus. We aren't yet at a place of looking back and rejoicing over healing and giant steps forward yet. But, we see bit by bit - He is at work. Both in us and our kiddos. 


Give thanks to the LORD for His love endures forever. 
Psalm 107:1